WWE returns to pay-per-view (PPV) -- if your cable provider is carrying the event, of course -- tomorrow night (Sun., Jan. 25, 2015) live from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with its Royal Rumble event starting at 7:00 p.m. ET with the Kickofff show featuring The New Day vs. Cesaro & Tyson Kidd & Adam Rose leading right on into the main course at 8 p.m. ET on the WWE Network.
Set for the card: The annual Royal Rumble match, Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE world heavyweight championship, and a few tag team matches in support.
Luckily for you Cagesiders, our staff of learned wrestling blowhards is here to help figure out just how the event is going to play out with predictions for each match on the card.
Let's get to it.
WWE ROYAL RUMBLE PREDICTIONS
The General: The reality of the situation is there are two wrestlers who could win this match: Daniel Bryan or Roman Reigns. One need only look at how the two were booked in the weeks leading up to this event to see who the company has thrown its promotional muscle behind. Considering the past couple weeks of television, Reigns winning would be a minor swerve, wouldn't it? Bryan has been treated like the star waiting to be crowned. They're in Philadelphia too, so I can't imagine they want to risk Reigns getting booed out of the building if Bryan doesn't win. Why not make up for last year's debacle? Hell, they can always use Fast Lane to put Reigns in the main event of WrestleMania if that's what they really want anyway, right? Pick: Daniel Bryan
Sean Rueter: While there's a case to be made for several acts, this one is a coin flip. Are they stubborn enough to stick to their guns and try to make Reigns a mega-star faster than they need to, or than he's ready to be? Or do they recognize that they can pick up where they left off last Spring and ride the YES movement to packed houses and mainstream attention? When it comes down to it, Vince McMahon is a business man. A crazy business who doesn't sneeze or sleep, but still, a businessman. He'll ride the hot hand while he sees if Roman can grow from a presence into an entertainer. And, tying this into my fantasy booking of the title match, Bryan - Cena is a story where more chapters need to be written. DB owes John a rematch, and The Beard never lost the title his Holidays at the Bella's bro could carry into Mania. Pick: Daniel Bryan
Keith Harris: This really seems to be a two horse race, even though there are more rising stars than usual that could credibly win the bout and be accepted as WrestleMania's World title contender, plus Randy Orton could always get given the surprise return victor gimmick. But it seems to be between the sentimental pick Daniel Bryan or the new hoss on the block Roman Reigns. For all the talk about how WWE sees Daniel Bryan as an A+ player, how they've handled his return suggests that isn't quite the case. Back to battling corporate Kane and being Bray Wyatt's set-up guy again doesn't paint a picture of someone they want to push to the moon and headline WrestleMania again, even though Bryan would be the safe bet, as his victory would be guaranteed to be received well by the notoriously picky Philly fans. On the other hand, we have stubborn old Vince McMahon being super invested in Roman's push to the point he's writing all his interviews for him. My hunch is Vince won't be talked off of that potential cliff edge. Remember he always have the final say. Pick: Roman Reigns
Cain A. Knight: I will be shocked if Bryan or Reigns don't win this match. The Philadelphia crowd will boo the shit out of Reigns if he emerges victorious from a final four that also includes Bryan. Therefore I think that Bryan will carry things for the first two-thirds of the match until he is finally eliminated due to either an injury angle or nefarious heel shenanigans. After Bryan is gone, Reigns will get the spotlight for the final stretch. WWE has no legit top heels in this match, so unfortunately Big Show will probably be among the final guys left standing at the very end. But we all know that Big Show has no chance to win, so that won't work at all. The smarter decision is to place Rusev as the final heel that needs to be tossed out, because he is an actual dark horse candidate to win it. Ultimately I'm going with Reigns over Bryan because I think WWE is ready to crown Roman as the next big thing. Pick: Roman Reigns
Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins
The General: Early odds favor Lesnar but no one has been pushed harder than Rollins. With Brock seemingly turning babyface and the focus of the match shifting to the dynamic between Lesnar and Rollins, Cena has become a bit of a non-factor here. That doesn't mean he can't/won't win, but he feels like an unnecessary distraction to what Raw this week proved was the real attraction. I can imagine a lot of back and forth in the creative meetings over this. I'll say The Authority's baby wins out. Pick: Seth Rollins
Sean Rueter: There are so many moving parts to this one, and so many workable stories they can spin out of it, that it should be pretty hard to screw up. The focus has been on Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar - enough so that I'm thinking that might be a bit of misdirection. Going from the seemingly foregone conclusion that Brock is following Punk to a big UFC payday after WrestleMania, they probably want to get the belt off of him before the build to 31 starts, but still use the investment they've made in him to build something. They can accomplish that by having Rollins cause Brock to lose his belt, and possibly have Lesnar cost Mr. Money in the Bank his briefcase to set up a hot feud where the man who broke the Streak puts over the Future in Santa Clara. And that, of course, means...the champ. Is. Here. Pick: John Cena
Keith Harris: I don't think Vince McMahon is insane enough to leave his World title on a shooter with only one match left on his contract, as it's bad enough if Brock Lesnar joins CM Punk in UFC without having to worry if he'll do what's best for WWE's business on the way out the door, so the title must change hands here! With that in mind, this is likely the last opportunity for John Cena to erase memories of Brock's one-sided destruction job at SummerSlam, so expect the favour to be returned, especially as Seth still has the Money In The Bank briefcase in hand. I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't cash it in immediately after the match is over and be the last man standing tall from this three-way war, but he's not going to get the direct victory. Pick: John Cena, but he won't hold the belt for long.
Cain A. Knight: WWE has done a great job building this main event match, and the main event slot is exactly where this match belongs. The primary reason Rollins is here is to be pinned, because WWE doesn't want Brock or Cena to take a pin fall loss. I don't expect Rollins to successfully cash in the MITB contract after his loss either, because he has been flaunting that option in Lesnar's face too much. At this point the cash-in is too obvious and doesn't have the shock factor WWE usually seeks with that tactic. WWE has firmly established that Lesnar is out to annihilate Rollins, and that has placed Lesnar in a bit of a tweener role. It's pretty interesting because Brock could easily turn babyface, but I don't think it will happen because WWE sorely needs credible heels like Lesnar at the top of the card for WrestleMania 31. I think the master plan is to go forward with Lesnar versus Reigns, and so Brock is going to retain the championship here by pinning Rollins. Afterwards, Randy Orton will return to thwart Seth's attempt to cash in the contract. With all that said, I am still absolutely terrified by the very real possibility that Cena is going to conquer the conqueror and walk out as champ yet again. Pick: Brock Lesnar
The Usos vs. The Miz & Damien Mizdow
The General: This will happen before the Royal Rumble, which means it's really only going to serve to help further plant the seeds of a breakup between Miz and Mizdow, which may culminate in the Rumble match. That means the tag team titles aren't changing hands. Pick: The Usos
Sean Rueter: They need to pick up the pace if they're going to get to Sandow vs. Miz in March, and Jimmy & Jey holding the tag belts is the new AJ Lee holding the Divas belt...teams will rotate through challenging, but Rikishi's boys are probably gonna hold those things most of the time for the foreseeable future. Pick: The Usos
Keith Harris: With WWE already teasing a breakup between Miz and his stunt double, it looks like the Samoan twins will continue to be perched at the top of the tag team tree and they've given up on the idea of Naomi turning on her husband and his brother due to having Hollywood stars in her eyes. Pick: The Usos
Cain A. Knight: This match is a perfect example of why 3 hour Raw episodes promote stagnancy and are really bad for the product. On paper this should be an entertaining match, but unfortunately this pairing has been completely exhausted thanks to about 14 televised matches involving some combination of these guys over the last 8 weeks. I hope the championship does not change hands because that would mean even more rematches. No thanks. Pick: The Usos
New Age Outlaws vs. The Ascension
The General: The only reason the Outlaws were brought back is to put the young guns over. You know, even though they killed them on Raw this week. The payback has to be swift and brutal to save poor Konnor and Viktor. This may actually be a glorified squash match. Pick: The Ascension
Sean Rueter: One of these teams just got lit up by 48 year old Fox News analyst. The other held tag gold in 2014. Would they have done Monday night's segment if they were still planning to push Konnor & Viktor? I honestly have no idea. The tag division is dumb. Pick: The Ascension
Keith Harris: It would really bury The Ascension if they lost to the Old Age Outlaws in their first high profile match and even though they're taking on Hunter's corporate buddies, I can't see that happening, as today it's more important for The Cerebral Assassin to put over his NXT brand than his loyal comrades in arms. Pick: The Ascension
Cain A. Knight: This match feels like it was placed on the PPV because someone dared Vince McMahon to somehow construct a PPV that didn't include any one-on-one matches. I'm not really sure why WWE decided to dust off the New Age Outlaws for the second consecutive Royal Rumble event. I just hope this time it doesn't lead to them wasting a spot on the upcoming WrestleMania card, like they did last year. The booking of this match seems pretty clear; I expect a three minute squash. Pick: The Ascension
Bella Twins vs. Paige & Natalya
The General: I suppose if the rumors are true and Nikki Bella is working hurt -- and the way she's been booked has supported that -- there's always the possibility that the babyfaces win just to protect the Divas champion. Or, this is where they again tease a Bella break up and bother to explain the issues between the two that were never solved. Or Paige and Natalya battle over who should be top contender when they win. Pick: Paige & Natalya
Sean Rueter: This will probably be a pretty good match for the brief amount of time they get. But the outcome doesn't matter, because they're all still the stars of Total Divas when it's over. For gits and shiggles, let's say they actually let the champ get a pinfall win on one of the biggest shows of the year. Pick: The Bellas
Keith Harris: Even though Paige & Natalya come off as a makeshift tag team that won't last long, I expect them to get the nod here to set up title matches between Nicki Bella and whomever pins her, likely Natalya. Pick: Paige & Natalya
Cain A. Knight: The most recent episode of Total Divas makes me think that Natalya and Paige might just spend the entire match licking each other's face and grabbing each other's sensitive body parts. I think their short-lived union will fall apart here though, because I don't expect that the Bella Twins will lose to a makeshift tag team. But I do expect Jerry Lawler to doze off for the rest of the night once this match is finished. Pick: The Bella Twins
The New Day vs. Cesaro & Tyson Kidd & Adam Rose
The General: Xavier Woods planted the seeds for a New Day heel turn on Raw this week, so perhaps the heels go over and New Day unleashes a vicious side we haven't seen from them yet. Pick: Cesaro & Tyson Kidd & Adam Rose
Sean Rueter: I might not be sure if Vince has given up on The Ascension, but I do know where he stands on Adam Rose. And Cesaro. He probably makes fun of Tyson Kidd for not having more sex with his wife. And Kofi, E and Xavier pretending to be extras from a church scene in a Tyler Perry movie probably makes him laugh out loud. Pick: The New Day
Keith Harris: What can I say, it sure sucks to be Kofi, Big E and Xavier! Burdened by a stereotypical gimmick that would have fit in 25 years ago, they'd be better off if it wasn't a new day for them. At least, Cesaro and Tyson Kidd are making the most of their new partnership by developing cool new double team moves and rapidly becoming a slick tandem act. Might as well give the win to them then. Pick: Cesaro, Tyson Kidd & Adam Rose
Cain A. Knight: This pre-show match will outshine all of the undercard tag team matches on the PPV because it won't be subjected to extreme time constraints. The New Day's gimmick is awful but that shouldn't be much of a factor when it comes to match quality. These 6 guys have the potential to put on a damn good elimination match. There isn't much of a story here, so I think the good guys are probably going to walk out with their hands raised. Pick: The New Day
Those are our predictions, Cagesiders. What are yours?